Tag Archives: Hurricane Sandy

What You Can Do To Support The Philippines

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 3.41.09 PMThis weekend one of the most powerful storms in recorded history hit the eastern side of the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan touched land with winds estimated at points to be between 195-200 miles per hour. For perspective – Super Storm Sandy that devastated the northeastern United States last Halloween had winds that maxed out at 115mph. Hurricane Katrina reached winds of 174mph.

Thousands are displaced from their homes in the Philippines as aid workers are rushing in to deliver food, water and supplies to survivors. The final death toll is currently estimated to reach 2,500 people.  According to a recent CNN report more than 200 million people are in need of aid – over 300,000 of them pregnant or new mothers. Cities that were once bustling metropolitan areas last week are in heaps of rubble – The Philippines are in trouble.

In times like these there are always an outpour of charities rushing to help those in need, but unfortunately there are also those who use devastating disasters like this as an opportunity to take advantage of people’s generosity. If you are willing and able, we have assembled a list of verified non-profit organizations that could use your donations to help stabilize and rebuild the Philippines after this horrible storm.


Red Cross

Emergency responders and volunteers throughout the Philippines are providing meals and relief items. Already, thousands of hot meals have been provided to survivors. Red Cross volunteers and staff were already on the ground delivering preliminary emergency warnings and safety tips before the typhoon hit. The Philippine Red Cross has also already mobilized its 100 local outposts to help with relief efforts. Give by donating online or mailing a check to your local American Red Cross chapter. Learn more and donate here.


The relief organization is sending medical aid for 20,000 survivors, including antibiotics, wound care supplies and pain relievers. AmeriCares is also giving funds to local organizations to purchase supplies. Learn more and donate here.


UNICEF’s chief concern is a disaster’s impact on children’s health and well-being, and they are working to ensure the safety of children and families affected by the typhoon. Learn more and donate here.


Oxfam has experienced staff on the ground, ready to provide immediate help to people in need. Learn more and donate here.

(Credit to Care2 for links)

If you are looking for non-financial ways to help support then consider adding your name to these petitions to encourage government leaders to take a better look at global warming and instituting practices to slow down the destruction of our planet.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those in the Philippines currently suffering through this disaster and to all those who have lost loved ones in this storm.

(Photos from CNN coverage)

Message in a Bottle Makes Its Way to Mom Two Years After Her Daughter’s Death

Superstorm Message in a BottleStories like this are so amazing and unlikely it seems strange we’d ever have any need for fiction.

Sidonie Fery was 10 years old when she wrote a brief note to her mother, sealed it in a green bottle, and cast it into the ocean about an hour east of Manhattan. That was over ten years ago.

Three years ago, at age 18, Sidonie fell to her death at her boarding school in Switzerland, leaving her family shocked and distraught. But the story doesn’t end there. And this is the part where we start to wonder if there really is a higher power looking out for us…

We all know the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy last fall: The second costliest hurricane in U.S. history, at least 286 people killed across seven countries. It was a horrible event none of us would want to relive, and it’s hard to imagine anything remotely positive could have come out it. But if it hadn’t been for the storm, a beach clean-up worker would have never come across Sidonie’s forgotten message amid piles of garbage washed to shore.

And so the bottle finally made it to Mimi Fery, Sidonie’s grieving mother, two years after her daughter’s death and over a decade after the day it was written. The message inside quoted a line from Sidonie’s favorite film, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: “Be excellent to yourself, dude.”

The girl most likely had no inkling that these words would essentially constitute her last communication to the world ever. And that makes the sentiment that much more poignant. It would be difficult and perhaps unsettling to go around thinking every day could be our last, every word our final utterance, every hug our last sensation. But Sidonie’s story makes this possibility seem all the more real, and thus our time here all the more precious. And we have to trust that everything, somehow, will be alright in the end.

Are you inspired by Sidonie’s story? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!


Photo credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Dear Republicans, What Makes Life Worth Living?


When several Republican leaders accused President Obama of aiming to destroy the Republican Party, a bright light went on. The reactionary right may have tossed itself into the dustbin of history already.  Let’s indulge in the hope that this is true. Progressives were dragged kicking and screaming in the wake of the Reagan revolution. Realists cringed as ideology ruled. Bad economics created ruinous policies that half-sunk the middle class.

What if all of that is over?  It’s not foolish to greet the day at the first moment of dawn – quite the opposite. Anyone who catches the early signs of historical change is in a position to lead that change. I believe that President Obama did just that. His vote against the Iraq war was prescient. It was a bellwether for all the positions outlined in his splendid “liberal agenda” inauguration.

But holding on to liberal values isn’t what made Obama president – he caught a trend. Instead of fighting against the dominant reactionary winds, he sensed a new wind. It was embodied in two words – hope and change – which aren’t exactly novel words in politics. Only this time, they were attached to a massive turn-around in society.

It’s time to accept that the turn-around is real and here to stay. What should we do next?

I’d like to suggest that we should do the opposite of what the reactionary right did. Instead of becoming victorious ideologues who want to crush their opponents, we should show the right that they are welcome to join the trend of history. The reason that John Boehner and others talk about Obama trying to crush them is that it’s exactly what they would do if the tables were reversed – indeed, they tried it for the first four years.

The reason that we have to do the opposite is that it will take an unprecedented coalition to save the planet, cure worldwide epidemics, block terrorism, feed an exploding population, and repair the damage created by calamitous weather patterns. We are all being forced to change our values. The things that made life worth living won’t be the same fifty years from now.

As the right wakes up from its rigid, stupid, selfish, xenophobic ideology, we must take those adjectives and throw them away. They are going to suffer with us in the future or rise with us. Partisanship is ridiculously narrow-minded in the face of unprecedented global change. Abortion, gay rights, marijuana, the flag, and even equal rights will look like the fight over tariffs in the nineteenth century – quaint and beside the point – if there are no polar ice caps anymore and air so toxic that taking a breath is the same as getting sick.

So what is life worth living for?  To gerrymander a district, buy another gun, and believe in a six-day creation of the universe? In 1860 what made life worth living was ending slavery. All the nice things didn’t matter when such an overwhelming injustice as slavery still prospered. At this moment we are awash in consumerism, and nice things flow in all directions. None of that matters if we get Hurricane Sandy every year, or many times a year. None of that matters if more tsunamis regularly kill a quarter of a million people, or if hundreds of millions have no potable drinking water.

Everyone knows that the human race has the ability to face these challenges, even if we cannot predict the outcome. But it’s time to actually listen to Obama’s repeated theme that we are all in this together. The right has been asleep on these issues for a long time. They don’t think they need the progressives; we know that everyone is needed. This should guide our vision, starting now. We all have to ask what makes life worth living, and then move forward to make our highest values come true for everyone.



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Deepak Chopra: We Could Use God’s Help – Where Is He?

shutterstock_68015836Tragedies like the Newtown shootings and the devastation from Hurricane Sandy test people’s faith in God. When God fails to intervene in human suffering, the acceptance of a loving deity who cares for his children arouses fresh doubts. For centuries, God’s failure to perform has been blamed on worshippers. Sin, temptation, human frailty, the seduction of evil – a whole range of faults belong to us rather than God. Even in an age that is much less strict in matters of religion, “What did I do wrong?” is a thought that lurks in the mind when bad things happen.

What if we erase the slate and look clearly at the situation.  Something terrible happens, people suffer, they implore God for help, but no help comes. If such a thing occurred when a house caught fire and the fire trucks never came, naturally the blame would fall on those who are assigned to rescue us. Is it fair to apply the same standard to a God who fails to show up?

The atheist position on this question is both simple and certain. God doesn’t show up because he doesn’t exist.  But the rest of us are likely to feel mixed emotions. When you look at yourself and ask where you stand on the God issue, you are almost certainly in one of the following situations:

Unbelief: You don’t accept that God is real, and your unbelief is expressed by living as if God makes no difference.

Faith: You hope that God is real, and your hope is expressed as faith.

Knowledge:  You have no doubt that God is real, and therefore you live as if God is always present.

When someone becomes a spiritual seeker, they want to move from unbelief to knowledge.  The path is by no means clear, however.  Yet without actual knowledge of God, no one can settle a basic question like “Should God be relied upon to heal suffering or divert disasters?”  Short of true knowledge, you either shrug God off for being useless in the everyday world or you take on faith that his infinite wisdom reaches beyond our limited perspective – in other words, suffering fits into the divine plan.

Let’s say that you recognize yourself in one of these three states of unbelief, faith, and knowledge.  It’s quite all right if they are jumbled and you have passing moments of each.  What feels like a muddle could actually be a path. Unbelief can lead to faith and faith to true knowledge.  This holds true for many other things in life, only we don’t use religious terms for it. When you learn to ride a bike, or roller-skate, or how to be in love, uncertainty dominates at first, then you begin to believe that you’re getting somewhere, and finally you know that you are there.

It’s ironic that the band of militant atheists who have attracted so much public attention, like Richard Dawkins base their unbelief on evolution. In reality they don’t believe that spirituality can evolve. They are stuck on one note – religion is a primitive throwback – which makes no sense on any level. The history of civilization is paralleled by the evolution of religious thought. Thomas Aquinas and the Buddha weren’t exactly sitting around a fire chipping at arrow heads, but militant atheists make their unbelief look like “progress.”

If there is a path to God, we are asking the big questions while in a muddled state; with clarity, these questions may have credible answers. Certainly a secular age isn’t going to back pedal and return to dogmatic faith. At the same time, spiritual experiences are natural and universal; they have always existed and still do, which means that God is available, if he exists. (For the moment I’ll use the conventional “he,” although the deity has no gender and shouldn’t been seen in the image of a human being).

God is hidden somewhere, as a presence, in all three situations, whether as a negative (the deity you are fleeing from when you walk away from organized religion) or as a positive (a higher reality that you aspire to). Being faintly present isn’t the same as being truly important, much less the most important thing in existence.  If it was possible to make God real again, I think everyone would agree to try. In the next series of posts, I’d like to trace how unbelief can lead to God. This isn’t a way to validate organized religion or to defend the God of any particular religion. What we’ll be interested in is discovering what makes God real, living, and true.


(To be cont.)


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Post Sandy Stress Syndrome

I live amidst downed trees, glaring street lights powered up by generators and discarded Sandy-soaked possessions. I am one of the lucky ones.  I got my electrical power back after two weeks. However, the utility company in many ways transformed into a futility company.

Meanwhile all around me life is evident in the rebuilding process. My neighbors are ripping out basement walls to ward off mold, fixing roofs while adapting to cold and darkness since many won’t have power for another few weeks. You can smell the stress in the air. Sadness pervades an entire coastal community even if some people have generators and did not get flooded. It is hard to celebrate when your neighbor is crestfallen. Yet it is important to feel joy in small successes.

People are edgy waiting on line at the local pharmacy. Some are cutting gas lines or lining up with an odd license plate on an even day. It’s not that they are selfish or feeling entitled to better service. I believe that they are stressed. It is easier to vent about waiting on a long line or cutting ahead of others to beat the system than dealing with a fundamental loss or grief.

Symptoms of Stress to Watch Out For:

•Low energy levels, feeling numb, emotionally paralyzed

•Focusing on negatives and catastrophic outcomes

•Disordered eating: some people eat junk food and gain weight; others stop eating and lose weight

•Sadness and tearing up even at ordinary matters

•Irritability and anger – this is sadness directed outward

•Disrupted sleep

How do you cope when your utility company is a futility company – when you have little control over your environment?

•You have the power of the positive pull. Pull yourself up to take small steps towards recovery in your daily activities.

•Normalize your routine to reset your natural rhythm. Get into step with present conditions and adapt your routine as much as possible with a semblance of structure.

•Move stress out of your body. You MUST do some form of exercise, or else your body and then your spirit will weaken.  Stress causes fatigue because it drains you. Don’t claim that you are too tired to exercise. You are not. Be aware that stress is making you feel tired, so don’t be tricked by inflammatory hormones. Exercise will improve your mood!

•Talk to your neighbors and help them. Even offering a kind word or a bit of humor is life enhancing.  Receive help and be grateful. Complete the circuit of giving and receiving. You can serve as your own spiritual “transformer.”

•It’s hard to be patient when you are suffering. Time is subjective and when you suffer, time ticks away very slowly. However, you know that deep in your heart, you will be stronger because of this painful experience. You will learn how to prepare and grow in many ways. Stay stronger longer. Turn stress into strength!


Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Lessons Learned From a Perfect Storm

Sandy, formerly known as a tropical storm, merged with a Nor’easter and surging with the high tide, wreaked havoc on my neighbors and posed a few difficulties for me as well. I have not written an article for over a week which is emotionally and spiritually painful for me. I am way too dependent on technology and currently suffering from technology withdrawal. Apparently, I have no power, or do I?

Life is a series of recoveries. When faced with an obstacle, you look for a practical solution like contacting your insurance adjuster, stocking up on candles which are also spiritually satisfying and most importantly, cultivating a positivity bias – appreciating what you do have. Since I am writing to you, I appreciate that I am above ground!

There are powerful storms which topple and level homes. There are personal storms which topple lives and break hearts, but hopefully not spirits.

Here are 7 stress-management tips for extreme stress:

  •   Fortify your body. Eat balanced meals to be balanced. I ate peanut butter on whole wheat – a lot! A peanut butter sandwich contains protein to fuel clear thinking and whole wheat which is a complex carbohydrate to improve mood. Also, peanut butter sandwiches are a comfort food with a happy childhood memory attached. I kept hydrated by drinking bottled water because I prepared beforehand and stress-management means preparation and rehearsal for the tough times.
  • Take your down time like getting some sleep. If not a solid block at night, a nap during the day. Since storms sap your energy and pose a threat to security, sleep might be difficult. When you get an opportunity to relax, sleep to help repair your thinking and heal your spirit.
  • Tell your story, share it, release it and objectify it. During storms you lose power. But you possess true power which is controlling your story: Who you tell it to, how long and how much you wish to reveal.
  • Connect with neighbors and others in your community. Living in ambiguity, in darkness, is difficult. Speaking to others, announcing your reality and listening to theirs, helps you feel less isolated and weak.
  • Move forward and don’t keep looking back to what you might have done or should have done. This only empowers your stern inner critic and saps your positive energy.  Focus on rebuilding with constructive future plans. Anticipate and envision a dream come true.
  • Move stressful thoughts out of the body and the mind. While you are moving forward mentally and spiritually, do it physically. Take a walk. Even better do it with your neighbors. Strengthen your legs to carry you to your next happiness.
  • Find and extract simple pleasures, humor, and happiness, wherever you can. Like a little flower which sprouted in a crack of a cement sidewalk, gracing everyone who notices with its beauty and surprise.

Photo via Washington Post

How Acts of God Empower Our Lives

“With the exception of the 9/11 disaster, the top ten most costly catastrophes in U.S. history have all been natural disasters–five of them hurricanes–and all have occurred since 1989.” – Ted Steinberg

New York City woke up Tuesday to a double rainbow, signaling the end of Superstorm Sandy and the beginning of recovery. The stories and pictures are flooding the Internet, and we are all simultaneously fascinated and floored by nature’s display of power.

Sitting safe in California, I reflected on the fragility of life and the priceless comfort of having loved ones safe and sound.

Safe, sound, and alive. Who needs more than this?

The gravity and grandeur of catastrophe is that it touches all of us even when we’re across the world and out of harm’s way. In one swift blow it reduces life to its simplest form, relieves us of our need to control the world, and brings us all to our senses.

What is really important? What is really worthwhile? What really matters?

The global concern and outpouring of prayers and community that naturally springs forth in times like this reminds us what we’re capable of as individuals, communities, and as a nation. At our core we are all humans with the same hopes and fears.

We may be powerless against Acts of God, but we are empowered by remembering our true values, reconnecting with our loved ones, and rising to the occasion of our lives.

An especially amazing facet of natural disasters is what it teaches us about healing and recovery. Not just on a human level, as we saw demonstrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,  but on a planetary level. Watching how our planet earth naturally recovers with time and begins to grow and thrive again, even after being devastated by fire or floods, teaches us how innate and natural healing is to all living things. With time, our bodies naturally heal and our earth naturally heals, despite repeated trauma.

These take-aways are easy to embrace when in the midst of natural disasters or personal disasters, but it’s easy to forget them as they start to fade and life gets back to “normal.”

As jobs and money and politics retake center stage,  may we continue to embrace and honor our loved ones, our communities, and the common ground we all walk on, our planet earth.

Photo credit: Kurt Wilberding

photo by: Looking Glass

Hurricane Sandy: The Battle Between Love and Fear

In every good action movie you see, there is always a battle between Love and Love and Fear and Darkness. There is a constant battle to get rid of the fear and let love conquer. This is also true in life, not just in the movies. Everyday we fight fear, whether its fear of being homeless, a fear of failing, or, more recently, the very real fear of Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy is posing fear in the United States right now. People all around are worried and scared, especially those being affected by it. As humans, we should of course allow ourselves to feel those emotions, but what we can’t do is let those emotions turn into pure paranoia. Thoughts are energy, and by only putting negative and fear driven thoughts out into the world will achieve nothing. I am sure that you are not purposefully putting negative thoughts out there, the last thing any of us want to do is make things worse, but subconsciously that is happening. What we need to do is this: Turn our Love Lights on.

You are probably wondering what I mean when I say “turn our Love Lights on.” This is what I mean: Going back to the movie example I used at the beginning of this post, everything has a light and dark side. The light is love-based action and the dark is fear-based action. We have a choice in what we allow to motivate our actions.  When natural disasters, crimes, or anything else bad happens, it is natural for us to default to fear-based actions. What we need to do instead is move into our love based actions. By moving into our love based actions we are turning our Love Light on.

Hurricane Sandy is a perfect opportunity for all of us to turn our Love Lights on. The next time you catch yourself being in fear of it, send out love to the storm and all those being affected by it. That way, you are not putting negative thoughts out into the world, you are simply taking care of your fellow human beings by sending them good positive thoughts. Here are some ideas for how you can act in love based actions:

  • Meditate on love for all effected by the hurricane
  • Raise money or start a fundraiser for those effected
  • Call a friend that is near it and tell them you love them
  • Call a family member and express love and gratitude
  • Journal about everything you are thankful for
  • BE IN GRATITUDE that you are alive

Let’s come together and send out some good energy… Breathe in Love… Breathe out Love… and turn your Love Lights on to shine throughout the dark!


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